California Is First State to Offer Pandemic Financial Assistance to Immigrants of Undocumented Status

By Shani Saxon May 19, 2020

On Monday (May 18), California began allowing immigrants of undocumented status to apply for financial relief during the coronavirus pandemic, CNN reports. The newly launched $125 million coronavirus relief fund, which Governor Gavin Newsom announced in April, is the first state-run fund committed to helping those deemed ineligible for federal stimulus payments and unemployment benefits.

According to a statement published by Newsom’s office in April, the state’s Disaster Relief Fund is a single payment that “will support undocumented Californians impacted by COVID-19 who are ineligible for unemployment insurance benefits and disaster relief, including the CARES Act, due to their immigration status." The one-time cash benefit of $500 will be distributed to an estimated 150,000 adults, with a $1,000 per household cap.

“California is the most diverse state in the nation. Our diversity makes us stronger and more resilient,” Newsom said in the statement. “Every Californian, including our undocumented neighbors and friends, should know that California is here to support them during this crisis. We are all in this together.” As CNN reports, the fund is comprised of $75 million in state relief and $50 million from private philanthropists.

The state is working directly with 12 nonprofit organizations to distribute the funds to those in need. Eligible members of the immigrant community can apply for assistance by reaching out to the participating nonprofits. 

Reports CNN:

About 10 percent of California’s workforce is undocumented, [Newsom] said. And though they paid over $2.5 billion in local and state taxes last year, they benefit from neither unemployment insurance nor the $2.2 trillion stimulus signed by President Trump.

“During this moment of national crisis, undocumented immigrants are risking their own health on behalf of the rest of us, saving lives as health care workers, caring for our loved ones and growing much of the food we depend on,” Laurene Powell Jobs, founder and president of social justice organization Emerson Collective, said in the statement published by Newsom’s office. “With the federal government and so many states failing to provide undocumented immigrants the economic and health supports all Americans deserve, I hope that corporations, foundations and individuals across the country will join us in providing the emergency relief these members of our community need to weather this challenging time.”

Applications for California’s relief fund will be accepted until June 30, or until the money runs out.